Longform

The Fight of Their Lives

Page 18 of 23

"It's too late for the doctors in Florida. God loves you enough to let you still be here to hear this message. God hasn't snuffed you out yet, Warren. I don't believe in killing abortionists, but 'vengeance is mine,' sayeth the Lord."

Four days later, Scott and his companions returned. "Warren, how many days do you have left?" Scott shouted. "The Lord showed me you have less than one year. One year and He's gonna take your life.

"God's law is above man's law. Warren, how many days do you have left? You won't have Michael Newell to defend you! How much longer before the Lord brings justice, because His law is above man's law. It's above Warren Hern."

Scott ended with the admonition that "my children have warned you." Did Scott now think he was God? Newell wondered.

On December 10, Scott was sentenced to ninety days in Denver County Jail for violating a court order to stay at least 100 feet from the entrance of any abortion clinic; part of the evidence used to lock him up was Hern's videotape.

Twenty days later, John Salvi walked into two Boston abortion clinics and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle. He wounded seven people and killed two young women, one of whom begged for her life before he pumped ten bullets into her. He wasn't caught until the next day, when he shot 23 bullets into a Norfolk clinic. (Salvi's lawyers tried to argue that he was insane; a jury sentenced him to life.)

The night of the Boston murders, Bob Enyart used his TV show to attack abortion providers, specifically naming Hern. "According to people who called me from around the country," Hern says, "the two most common words used on the program were my last name and 'kill.'"

Hern's clinic is located across from Boulder Community Hospital. The doctor had long before stopped using his front door for fear of being assassinated by someone in the line of protesters on the sidewalk. Now, every time he left by the clinic's back door, he looked up at the hospital's parking garage. He remembered what Newell's report had said about Scott's expert marksmanship.

Once safe at home, Hern worked on a report he says he was asked to submit to the Department of Justice. (Scott's lawyer, John Winston, would later claim that Hern initiated the report, in order to get the federal government to take action against his client.) In the report, Hern noted that between securing his building and hiring extra security personnel, "the costs of protecting ourselves from anti-abortion harassment and violence has cost well over $1 million during the past fifteen years.

"Because of the Boston killings, we must assume all anti-abortion demonstrators are armed and dangerous and will kill anyone seen entering or leaving the building," Hern continued. "Anti-abortion activity has long since passed the level of peaceful demonstrations of people expressing their point of view. This is no longer about free speech. It is about behavior that is meant to inflict pain, terror, intimidation, and, in some cases, death...There being no deterrence...authorities must recognize that the only protection at this point is self-defense, and many of us are prepared to shoot back.

"This is a prescription for civil war, which is what is happening, except that one side is still holding its fire."

On January 22, 1995, the American Coalition of Life Activists held a press conference in Washington, D.C., where they handed out a pamphlet naming a "dirty dozen" abortion doctors. Hern was on the list.

A coalition spokesman denied that the list was intended to promote violence, instead claiming that it was a way of "encouraging peaceful methods of exposure."

Federal law enforcement agencies didn't buy it. Within minutes of the coalition's announcement, Hern received calls at home from the Boulder police department and the Gilpin County sheriff, along with the FBI, the BATF and the U.S. Marshal's office, which again placed him under 24-hour protection.

Marshals came along to the graduate anthropology class he was teaching the next night at CU. "There were more cops in the room than there were students," Hern says, laughing, but quickly grows angry again. "The Mafia has more decency and ethics than these people. At least they keep their 'hit list' secret. They don't torture people for months or years before they kill them."

Newell was so worried about Scott that he decided to get a second opinion. The security specialist submitted a box of materials--including videotapes taken at Hern's clinic, police reports and arrest records, as well as letters from Scott to his ex-wife--to clinical psychologist John Nicoletti, one of the country's top experts on stalking.

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Steve Jackson